Orlen joins battle of the virus with 1 million litres of disinfectant handwash to combat spread of COVID-19

With handwash disinfectant in high demand, Orlen says it will step in and help by producing 1 million litres. Rafał Guz/PAP

Orlen oil company is to produce a million litres of disinfectant to help halt the spread of the coronavirus.

As the number of coronavirus  cases in Europe has grown, people have been trying to avoid infection by travelling less and disinfecting their hands often, among other preventive steps.

Orlen CEO Daniel Obajtek said the company will start producing aseptic liquids for hand disinfection “within a few days.”Rafał Guz/PAP

In Poland, where there are 18 confirmed cases of the virus, officials, companies and ordinary citizens are trying to plan ahead. People have been buying disinfectant gels from drug stores and pharmacies in large numbers. Photos of empty shelves have appeared online.

Extra disinfectant is on its way from an unexpected source: Polish oil company PKN Orlen, which most people would associate with its petrol stations, rather than hygiene products.

In Poland people have been trying to plan ahead by buying goods in large numbers leaving rows of empty shelves.HAYOUNG JEON/PAP/EPA

“Within a few days our company ORLEN Oil will start producing aseptic liquids for hand disinfection,” tweeted PKN Orlen’s CEO on 4 March.

“Our laboratories and production lines in Jedlicze are already being adapted to respond as soon as possible to customer expectations and strengthen the sanitary safety of the country,” he added.

There are now 18 confirmed cases of the virus in Poland. Andrzej Grygiel/PAP

The disinfectant will be produced at the plant in south-eastern Poland by Orlen Oil, which is part of the PKN Orlen group and normally produces and distributes lubricants, including a wide range of engine oils. One million litres of disinfectant will be produced within two weeks, according to the company, with the first batch expected soon.

The disinfectant will first be sent to public institutions, so that people can disinfect their hands there. It will also be sold at Orlen’s petrol stations in Poland, of which there are around 1800.

Orlen CEO Daniel Obajtek announced the news on Twitter. Daniel Obajtek/Twitter

Orlen’s decision was backed by the Polish authorities, which want to make the process as smooth as possible.

“We are entering into cooperation with Orlen, we want to facilitate production so that everything that is done is done in accordance with the law and so that Orlen does not have any tax-related problems at any stage,” said deputy Minister of Finance Jan Sarnowski.